imagesPyromania is a pattern of setting fires for satisfaction derived from releasing tension experienced before the fire-setting. It is an impulse control disorder which means that the person fails to resist the impulse of setting fires. It is mostly diagnosed in men than in women and although it may begin in childhood the age of onset is unclear. A person with pyromania set fires to things for satisfaction and must set fire to something more than once. 

The cause of fire setting can be either environmental or individual. Some individual factors that may contribute to fire setting include:

  • sensation seeking-attracted to fire out of boredom
  • attention seeking-a way of provoking reactions from adults
  • loners-lack social skills or have important friendships
  • lack of fire safety skills-ignorance associated with setting fires.

Some environmental factors include:

  • poor supervision
  • neglect from parents
  • peer pressure-peers playing with fire may be a risk for children to set fires.
  • stressful life events-some may result to fire setting as a way to cope with crisis
  • psychopathology-individuals who set fires are more likely to have been physically or sexually abused as children. They may have also seen their parents abuse drugs.
  • learning experience- children may watch adults use fire carelessly.

People who set fires usually do so as a ways of relieving tension or during periods of high and unusual stress. Treatment usually is more effective when it follows a case-management approach as opposed to medical model. Treatment options such as problem-solving, anger management, communication skills, cognitive restructuring are necessary to address emotional and cognitive issues. In adults, it is difficult to treat because their is lack of knowledge and lack of cooperation. Usually, medication and long term psychotherapy are the best forms of treatment. Recovery from fire setting in children and adolescents depends on the environment and on the individual. For adults, prognosis may be poor because of spontaneous remission and lack of cooperation in therapy.


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Helen Nieves

Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.

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APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2015). Pyromania. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
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